Bad choices - What's a parent to do?

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

My brother had his mind made up. The 4,000-mile cross-country motorcycle trip was all planned, and nothing was going to stop it.

Even though Les had been out of college for a couple of years and was living on his own, our mom felt intuitively that this trip was not a good idea. The whole plan seemed born of exuberance, and problems had already arisen - not enough time to break in the new bike, difficulty getting time away from work, and a near-accident in the rush to prepare for the trip.

So a stalemate developed. Les felt he was mature enough to make his own decisions. Mom's experience told her that respecting a parent's counsel was wise at almost any age.

When kids grow beyond a parent's immediate control, can a mom or dad hope to keep them safe? Is there a point at which an older child's protection or happiness is no longer a parent's business? Watching my mom wrestle with this issue, I found some answers to these questions.

As my brother left on his trip, Mom began to pray. Years of Bible study had solidified her understanding of God as divine Principle, the solid and dependable governing force in every person's life. And she knew this Principle to be infinite Love, an unfailing protector and guide. These two ways of describing God - as Principle and Love - depict the perfect Parent. One who would not accept fear, stubbornness, or risk for His loved children. If Mom wanted to feel sure of God's care for Les and herself, she realized she had to be willing to deny these un-Godlike traits a place in her thought and life.

Instead, she considered how limitless God's parenthood must be. His all-presence ensures that no child of His can spin out of His jurisdiction, either by choice or chance. His all-power means that no other force exists to harm, distract, or lure His offspring away from His care. And God guarantees safety, peace, joy, and satisfaction at every moment to His creation.

Some parenting promises from the Bible support these facts. "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32). "It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish" (Matt. 18:14). In her companion to the Bible, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy echoed these statements: "Father-Mother is the name for Deity, which indicates His tender relationship to His spiritual creation" (page 332).

Mom faithfully considered truths like these, and soon they edged out the fear. She became convinced of God's ability to parent her child - and herself.

Mom's prayer had far-reaching effects. A couple of nights later, she awakened, impelled to think deeply about God as Life - the all-sustaining, all-encompassing source of being. She prayed this way until she felt peaceful again. So free was she of concern for my brother that it didn't occur to her that he might be in danger.

Early the next morning, Les called. There had been an accident. When they compared times, Mom found that her "wake-up call" coincided with his collision. Traveling at night too fast for his headlight to illumine a safe distance ahead, he had broadsided a stag standing in the road. His friend Steve watched him go down with his bike, taking an impact to his head that nearly destroyed his helmet. But as Steve reached him, Les stood and shook himself off. Though his bike was inoperable, he was virtually unhurt.

A changed young man returned home. Gratitude for Mom's prayers and God's protection filled his thought. But something more profound had taken place. Humility and obedience had replaced impetuosity and willfulness. Not because of a confrontation with a human parent, but as the natural outcome of experiencing God's parenting. Parenting that comforted Mom and protected Les. Parenting that brings guidance to both of them - and our whole family - to this day.

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